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With Cup drivers watching, Little seizes Loudon K&N win

July 16, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

With Cup drivers watching, Little seizes Loudon K&N win
First K&N Pro Series East victory for NASCAR Next driver comes in front of influential eyes

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Jesse Little led only one lap in the July 11 Granite State 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Fortunately for the NASCAR Next driver, his move to the front came on the last lap.

Little, 17, earned his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory by darting from third to first when race leader Nick Drake and second-place Brandon Jones tangled in Turn 3 at NHMS.

The victory came in Little’s 31st start in the series.

Little said he didn’t have a car capable of getting around the leaders, but based on what he saw taking place in front of him, knew he might have a chance.

“And when I saw them wreck, I had a big sense of relief … once I (took) the checkered flag, I felt like all the pressure was lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

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“It was a really special feeling pulling into Victory Lane and finally getting everybody that supports me and sticks behind me their first win.”

Little is the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Chad Little and has been around racing his entire life. He is one of 12 NASCAR Next drivers and is competing in his second full season in the K&N Series.

“I grew up in the racing world, and that’s really all I know,” Little said. “I don’t really know that many people outside of it … just people that have been close to my dad and have helped him through his career, that he’s stayed close with and now I’m beginning to build relationships with.”

The K&N Series travels to Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway this week for the July 19 Jegs 150. Three different winners have emerged in the three previous K&N stops at Columbus -- Darrell Wallace Jr. (2011), Cale Conley (‘12) and Daniel Suarez (‘13). Little, now fourth in points, has one career start at the 0.333-mile oval, finishing 12th a year ago.

The New Hampshire win was Little’s third consecutive top-10 finish and his fifth in this year’s 10 races.

“It was a huge win for us, being at New Hampshire and being with the Sprint Cup guys,” Little said. “I put it … New Hampshire as one of our biggest races of the year, and to get the win there, I think it couldn't have come at a better place.

“It was right in our mid‑season where we had just started to build back and had some good top-10 finishes, and to go out and get the win, it definitely gave my guys a ton of confidence, including myself, and it was really gratifying the way we did it.

“We ran up front all day, and the teams know how hard we work, and even though we're under-sourced and under-funded, it's just really gratifying that we can go out at a track like that and prove ourselves and I can prove to other people that myself as a driver, I'm there to contend and I want to win.”

Ben Rhodes, a winner of four consecutive races heading into NHMS and five overall this season, remains the series points leader.

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